Planet Rugby

Preview: Munster v Gloucester

18th October 2013 13:25

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Peter O Mahony Munster 2012

Back for Munster: Peter O┐Mahony

Gloucester will look to back up victory at home last week as they visit Thomond Park to face Munster on Saturday.

While Gloucester travel to Ireland on the back of a morale-boosting win over Perpignan at Kingsholm, the boot was on the foot for Munster as they let a lead slip late on in Edinburgh.

Defeat means there is even greater emphasis on this next encounter, with Munster knowing that another shock loss would leave them with a mountain to climb to avoid missing out on a quarter-final spot for just the second time in 17 seasons.

Munster have home advantage well and truly in their favour, though, with only Leicester and Ulster having triumphed at Thomond Park in the history of the Heineken Cup.

Gloucester not won away from home in the Heineken Cup since 2011, against Connacht. But the Cherry and Whites have won five of their last six Heineken Cup games against Irish clubs, losing only to Munster in the 2007/08 quarter-finals.

Munster have lost their last two Heineken Cup games; they have not lost three consecutive games since 2007.

At home, Munster have won 13 of their last 14 matches in the Heineken Cup. This will be the sixth meeting between these clubs in the tournament. All four pool meetings to date have produced home victories.

Munster Head Coach Rob Penney has made a number of changes to his starting XV.

The one change to the back-line sees Johne Murphy take the place of the injured Simon Zebo on the wing and in the pack Penney introduces Damien Varley, BJ Botha, Donncha O'Callaghan and captain Peter O'Mahony.

Murphy, who travelled as a backs reserve last weekend, comes straight in to the starting team as does O'Mahony, who was ruled out of the Edinburgh clash.

James Coughlan makes way for O'Mahony on Saturday and Donnacha Ryan shifts to blind-side replacing the injured Paddy Butler.

Donncha O'Callaghan resumes his second row partnership with Paul O'Connell as Varley and Botha join Kilcoyne in the front row. Cathal Sheridan takes the place of Duncan Williams in the replacements.

Meanwhile, Saturday will be a memorable occasion for Gloucester second row Will James, as he skippers the side on his 150th competitive appearance for the club.

The Welsh international captains a side which retains just three players from last weekend's starting line up - Jonny May, Ryan Mills and Mike Tindall, as Director of Rugby Nigel Davies lives up to his promise to rotate the squad.

"When the draw was made, this one stood out and we're looking forward to it. There's a rich history between the two clubs," said Davies.

"It's a huge challenge for us. They're coming off the back of, what would be for them, a bad loss and I'm sure they're going to come out all guns blazing, which they always do at Thomond Park anyway.

"It was good to go there in preseason for the experience, although the crowd will be up a few levels on what we experienced then for that friendly. But we've had a feel for the place and the players will know what to expect in terms of the stadium etc."

Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 James Downey, 11 Johne Murphy, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Peter O'Mahony (capt), 7 Niall Ronan, 6 Donnacha Ryan, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Damien Varley, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Mike Sherry, 17 James Cronin, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 James Coughlan, 20 CJ Stander, 21 Cathal Sheridan, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Denis Hurley,

Gloucester: 15 Martyn Thomas, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Mike Tindall, 12 Ryan Mills, 11 Jonny May, 10 Jonny Bentley, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Matt Cox, 5 Will James (capt), 4 Lua Lokotui, 3 Rupert Harden, 2 Darren Dawiduik, 1 Dan Murphy.
Replacements: 16 Daniel George, 17 James Gibbons, 18 Yann Thomas, 19 James Hudson, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Rob Cook,

Date: Saturday, 19 October
Venue: Thomond Park
Kick-off: 18.00 BST (17.00 GMT)
Referee: Jerome Garces (France)

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